SLB Newsbriefs...daily news from different sources, truncated and compiled. updated daily.
VAT driving power bills up next month (

"CONSUMERS face a bleak Christmas following the release of guidelines governing the value added tax on electricity, paving the way for higher power bills starting next month.

The Energy Regulatory Commission said the tax will increase rates by only 22.96 centavos per kilowatthour for poorer households but jack up rates by 50 to 60 centavos per kwh for customers using 200 to 500 kwh per month.

While the ERC estimated that impact of VAT on residential consumers will be only about 6 percent of the total bill, more increases are on the horizon.

The commission is also set to decide the National Power Corp.’s application for increases of 45 centavos in Luzon, 64 centavos in the Visayas and 51 centavos in Mindanao for the power it generates."

Arroyo's House allies scramble to cover up Garci report

"IT APPEARS that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is going to get away unscathed again in what may well be the second chapter in the continuing drama in the House of Representatives over fraud allegations in last year's presidential election.

Ms Arroyo's dominant allies yesterday sought to scuttle findings in the draft report of the chairs of five House committees that conducted a joint inquiry into the "Hello Garci" scandal that the administration attempted to cover up revelations that she manipulated the balloting.

Discussions in an executive session of the committees that was called to approve the draft report ended in a deadlock.

"Certainly, we will not agree that there was a cover-up," said Representative Eduardo Zialcita of Lakas-CMD."

Palace to opposition, Senate: Produce ‘Garci’ (

"Amid a revival of the "Hello Garci" controversy, Malacañang dared the opposition and the Senate yesterday to produce former election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano themselves in their congressional inquiries as Palace officials rejected accusations of a cover-up.

The opposition in the House of Representatives wants to highlight an alleged government cover-up of the electoral fraud allegations hounding President Arroyo in the findings of a congressional inquiry."

Hyatt 10 on economic gains: Too early to cheer (

"THEY USED to join the President trumpeting the Arroyo administration’s performance on the economic front. But now, they are singing a different tune.

Members of the so-called Hyatt 10, who collectively resigned their posts in July due to what they described as disenchantment with the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, said it was premature for the administration to harp on recent economic gains. They said the Philippines was still far from a real recovery.

The Hyatt 10 members have formed a new group called INCITEGov -- International Center for Innovation, Transformation and Excellence in Governance -- which advocates governance reforms.

Speaking at a public forum, they said the media’s portrayal of the country’s economic performance was a little exaggerated, given that the Philippines still lags behind its Asian neighbors in economic terms.

“(It has been portrayed in the news) that the economy is poised for takeoff due mainly to the fiscal reform program. But is it really an accurate picture or is it misleading?” said former Education Secretary Florencio Abad.

In a presentation, former Budget Secretary Emilia Boncodin noted that the country’s debt was still rising and the heavy debt payment burden left very little in the government’s budget to fund development projects. She said more than a third, or 34 percent, of the national government’s budget is used for interest payments alone."

COA: P36-M overprice in lawmakers’ fertilizer (

"Liquid fertilizer purchased using the pork barrel funds of three Bicol congressmen and a party-list representative was overpriced by as much as P36.4 million, according to a Commission on Audit (COA) report.

The report, sent this week to the Senate and the House of Representatives, showed that the "grossly overpriced" fertilizer purchases were financed out of a total of P47.2 million in priority development assistance fund (PDAF) allocations of Representatives Joseph Santiago of Catanduanes and Renato Unico Jr. of Camarines Norte, Ernesto Pablo of the party-list group Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives, and the late Rep. Fausto Seachon Jr. of Masbate.

Also covered by the audit was a P3-million allocation of Minority Leader Francis Escudero for a milk feeding and livestock production program in his district in Sorsogon, but the report mentioned no finding of irregularities in the use of the money.

The report showed that the liquid fertilizer was bought at P800 per bottle when it was available on the market for only P58.50 to P90.54 per bottle.

Seachon allocated P20 million for the fertilizer purchases for his district; Santiago, P12.2 million; Unico, P10 million; and Pablo, P5 million."

Abu Sayyaf mortar fire damages mosque

"ZAMBOANGA City — Abu Sayyaf militants launched a mortar attack against government troops in Jolo in fresh hostilities following a brief lull, the military said yesterday.

The barrage of mortar fire hit civilian areas, destroying a newly renovated mosque and houses near the town of Panamao in the rebel-infested island, the military’s Southern Command said. Skirmishes followed the rebel bombardment.

There were no reported casualties from the fresh wave of hostilities, and the Army Scout Ranger battalion said they overran another rebel encampment, the third to fall since the military launched a major offensive on Nov. 11."

Subic rape: 7 new witnesses surface

"ANGELES CITY — Seven more witnesses will be presented at the preliminary investigation of six United States Marines accused of raping a 22-year-old Filipina inside a moving van at the Subic Freeport last Nov. 1.

Lawyer Randy Escolango, who represents Fe Castro, one of three witnesses earlier cited by the Investigation and Intelligence Office of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), said the seven witnesses are expected to testify that they saw the apparently groggy victim being dragged by the six soldiers from the van onto a sidewalk near Subic’s port facilities.

Castro is an investor at Subic, where she is involved in the importation and transshipment business. She and the seven new witnesses were together when they allegedly saw the US Marines dump the victim.

Escolango said the new witnesses were near the sidewalk when the US servicemen emerged from the van and allegedly dumped the victim "like a pig." The area is a short distance away from where the USS Essex, the vessel that transported US military personnel for the joint military exercises, was docked on the night of Nov. 1.

The witnesses, according to Escolango, claimed they saw the Americans run toward the port facilities and board the ship, leaving the victim lying on the sidewalk."

Senate unlikely to pass terror bill (

"Citing the supposed inefficiency of the police and the military as a "major concern," senators declared yesterday it was unlikely that they would pass the anti-terror law before the yearend.

"The anti-terrorism bill which Malacañang has been badgering us to pass, I think, will have to wait and I think it will be on the backburner for sometime," Sen. Joker Arroyo said.

Sen. Manuel Villar, chairman of the committee on public order and security, agreed that the anti-terror bill might not be passed by yearend because of the need to thoroughly scrutinize the proposal.

"There is a need for senators to arrive at a consensus on several issues, including the basic distinction or definition of terrorism, murder, as well as the parameters of the law," he said."

SEA Games rigged, Viet official says (

"NO question about it — the Philippines will win the overall championship in the 23rd Southeast Asian Games.

Why? Because the results were already “fixed.”

This was the outrageous claim of Nguyen Hong Minh, head of Vietnam’s delegation to the SEA Games, in a news story written by Lan Phuong — and translated into English by Minh Phat — which appeared Nov. 10 in the, the Web site for Than Nien Daily, a widely circulated daily based in Ho Chi Minh City with a readership of over two million every week.

In his article, Phuong said that Minh said that “host Philippines has ‘fixed’ with some other nations how many medals each country will end up with.”

DAR denies illegal use of P27-B Marcos money

"The Department of Agrarian Reform said Wednesday that the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program’s share from the recovered Marcos ill-gotten wealth is being used for the program.

Jeffrey Galan, DAR undersecretary for finance, management and administration, said P27 billion of the Marcos wealth is available for CARP’s implementation until 2006.

He dismissed speculations that the fund was misappropriated.

As approved by the Department of Budget and Management, the allocation for CARP out of the Marcos money is P9.728 billion for 2005 and P6.122 billion for 2006.

Galan said some P8.199 billion was used to acquire and distribute farmlands to landless farmers in 2004, while P3.15 billion went to support services, such as farm-to-market roads, bridges, post-harvest facilities and farm inputs."

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